Nine banded Armadillo
There were so many lovely comments about my last post, The Owl and the Pussycat… that I hunted on Youtube for videos of skunk sounds. Then I was perplexed – it didn’t sound like our noisy night visitors. Did our skunks speak in Spanish or had we developed a special language? Eventually I started researching all the other critters that live with us. Possums can hiss but don’t say very much. Skunks in the wild rarely talk at all. Raccoons have a very distinctive chatter – most of it is swear words. One of my neighbors is scared of raccoons, they are pretty feisty. I came to the rescue and chased the raccoon up a tree where he sat swearing at me (I think Puta was in there…)
What on earth was it? Light bulb moment! It is our little armed ones – Armadillos! What a wonderful surprise. Here is a link to a short video of their distinctive chirrup.
Can you imagine that little noise, all night long, from our extended Latin American immigrants? They wake up about 7 pm and start chirruping, ‘Bee Bee?” Teddy responds, “Beeee Beep?” and on it goes. Then I started reading about them. They like to dig burrows and they are all still under the deck including a new one. Curiously, they are happy to share their tunnels with skunks, possums and whoever else is there. Happy hippy commune, man! They aren’t predated by the Great Horned Owl but presumably they were all cuddled under the deck with skunks. Maybe their chirping was meant to be reassuring? They have very few predators and can live from 9 to 23 years. That probably means that we have lived with the same extended family for the last 13 years. Mami, Papi, Abuelita, Mijos – no wonder they talk with us. We are THEIR people; not the other way around!
Even better, they are insectivores and LOVE fire ants. Now I love my little armed ones with a passion… For some reason fire ants love to bite me. You are innocently gardening when one and then one hundred fire ants run up your leg, biting as they go. Your only recourse is to run to the outside faucet and rinse them all off. Then you get some lidocaine because it bloody hurts! Armadillos are funny looking little creatures but harmless unless you eat them undercooked (yes, people are hungry in Central America). Then you can contract leprosy from them – how weird is that? We would start naming them but Teddy counted about 50 one night, all communicating with each other. Imagine a busy barrio in Mexico.
Some years ago, Teddy got this wonderful little video of some baby armadillos snuffling about in the undergrowth looking for insects. They were silent and when I have seen them in our garden they went straight under the deck – they didn’t seem scared though and now I know why. It was their female person.
Well, it’s not really a pussycat but Pepe Le Pew thought that he was a black and white cat. So the correct title of this post is The Owl and the Skunks. I don’t know how many of you have been lucky enough to see a Great Horned Owl but they are massive. They stand as tall as a toddler and have a wingspan of up to 5 feet.
For months we have been hearing a very distinctive ‘Whoo Whoo’ and I was so excited when I realized it was a Great Horned Owl. The sound is very deep and you can tell that the creature has large lungs. I started researching this wonderful bird and discovered that one of his favorite snacks is SKUNKS!!! He has really large eyes and ears but very little sense of smell. I adore my little skunks that live in the reserve and play under my deck, so I was sad to find out that they had a predator that was immune to their scent. Then I thought about baby Great Horned Owls – I guess it’s just the circle of life…sobbing.
On the plus side we have a brand new deck for skunks, armadillos, possums, raccoons, wood rats, snakes and feral cats to hide under. One night Teddy and I went to bed, really early as always, only to sleep fitfully through a night of deafening WHOO WHOO! Mr. Horned Eagle was sitting on our fence or the trees in the reserve which is just a few feet from the bedroom. Underneath that noise was the frantic sound of little skunks chattering nervously underneath the deck.
Aren’t they adorable little twins??
It reminded me of the Pixar short movie about the toys, Tin Toy, that were all hiding under the bed, terrified of the giant baby. If I hadn’t been so sleepy I would have gone out to tell him to keep the bloody noise down. Well… this is a happy ever after story. The skunks survived and the Great Horned Owl has decided to move on to a deck free habitat. Teddy snapped a shot of one in Florida and couldn’t believe how big it was as it flew over him. This is a link to the Great Horned Owl Wikipedia page. One description of its call is “You still up, me too”. This article noted that some people regarded it as solemn and terrifying. Really? It’s just a giant owl!
On a final note, only stupid people have skunks as pets, with their scent organ removed (the only exception would be a rescue). Skunks belong in the wild where they are the gardener’s friend. They busily till the soil while eating bugs and larvae.
DIY Cat Shelter
As most of you know, we now have an outside feral cat – Katniss (picture below). We have a large deck which she uses most of the year with all the other critters but Winter Storm Helena is bringing a hard frost. I need to interject – why do we name every stupid storm? Back in the old days it was just bad weather. As usual, Houston is reacting as though winterpocalypse had arrived. To be fair, homeless people and critters are going to struggle over the next couple of days. What to do?
I checked out cat houses on Amazon and we could certainly get one eventually. In the meantime, I created a nest with an old cat crate covered in a tarp for hurricanes. It is off the deck to feel safer and there is a clean fleecy blanket in there with a catnip toy. Then I went to the supermarket to look for a hot water bottle – the assistant looked at me as though I came out of the Ark. “I don’t think they make them anymore”. Kerry Macgyver thought about it and created this.
glass bottle filled with hot water
Wrapped in two old t-shirts
I threw out some 10 year old Pimms (British drink) and filled it with hot water, sealed with the love of my life – duct tape. Then I rolled it in two of Teddy’s old t-shirts and put it under the blanket.
Katniss, the feral cat
I doubt very much if Princess Katniss will use this shelter but perhaps there will be a warm family of possums? One of my neighbors kindly allows Katniss to sleep on their covered porch which is warm from the house, so she has some options. A few days ago, I spotted her waiting for breakfast in the corner of the garden. She suddenly looked behind her, clearly askance but not terrified, into the reserve. To my astonishment, two fat possums (Betsy and Peggy Sue?) came thundering out aiming directly for our deck. It was 8 am so they were late going to bed (under our deck) but they had been digging for grubs by the looks of their snouts. It looked like the scene in the film Fifth Element where the elephantine aliens came thundering out of the pyramid. I burst out laughing and went out to reassure Katniss.
She ran off (to return at a later time) and I startled Possum # 3 – the baby who had been following the other two. I saw him sleeping on the flowerbed a couple of hours later and entreated him gently to go under the deck to sleep with his family. He seemed to understand and went to bed like all good little critters should.
Thank you to Wikipedia for the links – what did we do before Google??
No need to comment about our love of alcohol, with the bottle and 6 pack door… 😆